3 Leg Torso gets youthful shot in the arm
Wednesday, May 04, 2005 JAMES McQUILLEN
For Saturday night's concert at the Newmark Theatre, though, they took on a few extra players: the 61-member-strong Metropolitan Youth Symphony, whose music director is Balogh's dad, Lajos Balogh. The combined forces played only four numbers, but that was enough to give a new and tantalizing 3 Leg Torso experience, an orchestral pops program that wrapped the clever chamber group in a plush cloak of symphonic sound.
Playing on their own for the concert's first half, the quintet gave a taste of its unique repertoire, a gumbo -- or goulash, more appropriately, given the Baloghs' Hungarian origins -- of Gypsy and klezmer traditions animated by Latin rhythms and suffused with a witty, sophisticated cabaret spirit. Even traditional tunes such as the klezmer "Frailach fun der Chupa" sounded original, and the original tunes, such as Von Drehle's Scottish-Sufi "Moroccan Jig," were delightfully off-kilter and infectiously lively. Von Drehle's comments from the stage added an element of stand-up -- or more precisely sit-down -- comedy, most notably in a wild yarn about a man sucked out of an airplane window, which introduced the warm-hearted waltz "Bill's Last Adventure."
The quintet's level of musicianship is uniformly high, and their ensemble was tight as a drum Saturday night, with fluid transitions and edge-of-the-seat energy.
The freewheeling energy of 3 Leg Torso seemed to rub off on the young players of the Youth Symphony, who put in an enthusiastic performance as a back-up band with lush strings and muscular winds and brass. The suave arrangements of Balogh and Von Drehle's original compositions were by Mike Van Liew, who also conducted the combined portion of the concert; bold but not over the top, they suited the ensemble's spirit nicely.